TOPIC: CURRENT STATUS AND APPLICATIONS OF BIOTECHNOLOGY IN THE MALAYSIAN FOOD INDUSTRY.
The term “biotechnology” refers to the use of living organisms or their products to modify human health and the human environment. ‘Food biotechnology’ is a process scientists use to enhance the production, nutritional value, safety, and taste of foods. It can also benefit the environment by improving crops so that they need fewer pesticides. Modern food biotechnology is a refined version of this same process. Today, scientists obtain desired traits by adding or removing plant genes. The application of biotechnological processes (food biotechnology) in the production and modification of foods and food ingredients by the local food industry is not widespread, although foods and food ingredients produced by traditional biotechnology like fermentation technology processes are already familiar with the consumers. Examples of such products are tempeh, yogurt, nata, tapai, soy sauce and budu. The major advantage in using such processes is that they utilize living organisms or their products such as enzymes to accelerate the rates of reactions that occur during the production or modification of food materials. Biocatalytic conversion of raw materials, thus, can lead to the production of novel foods and food ingredients, or modification of existing food or food ingredients. Research in this aspect of catalysis is essential because the output of the research is often new food products and process technologies. This surely will help improve the economy of Malaysia especially when the raw ingredients (e.g. palm oil, sago starch, fruits etc.) used are indigenous to the country.
Food biotechnology has also yielded high quality clarified fruit juices. Currently biotechnology processes, which are being employed by the food industry in the private sector, are the production of monosodium glutamate, vinegar, yeast, and syrups (glucose, fructose and maltose). Utilization of microorganisms and enzymes for the production and improvement of starch-based food and food ingredients has also been carried out. Current research also focuses on using enzymes to modify palm oil, sago starch and local fruit juices. Fermentation processes using bioreactors is used to produce food agro-food biopolymers, including those derived from microorganisms e.g. microbial cellulose, gelatin substitutes etc. The newer biotechnologies such as those involving plant cell culture technology was be developed to produce useful food ingredients such as natural colours and flavours. In general, applications of food biotechnology in Malaysia mostly involve fermentation reactions and biocatalyst reactions. Although Malaysia has not yet produced a biotechnology crop commercially, several genetically modified crops containing traits of value have been produced at the experimental stage. At the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute, rice has been successfully modified to resist the tungro virus, and papayas manipulated to resist ring-spot virus infection and to have a prolonged shelf life. Other crop plants such as pineapples are manipulated to resist "black heart", bananas and papaya for delayed ripening, chili for virus resistance, and sweet potatoes (albeit, preliminary), for delivery of edible vaccines. Malaysia is also developing genetically engineered oil palm, with a focus on increasing value-added products from the palms, such as high oleate and high stearate oil, nutraceuticals (vitamin A and E), biodiesel and bioplastics. Presently biotechnology receives large-scale support from the Malaysian government. Biotechnology was earmarked as one of the areas of advancement under the 8th Malaysia Plan (2001-2005). Biotechnology, being one of the five core technologies that will accelerate Malaysia's transformation into a highly industrialized nation by 2020 has received strong governmental support and commitment. Accordingly, the government has encouraged the...
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